by Heather Mongilio — August 13, 2015 at 11:30 am 1,885 0

Arlington County wants residents to help it design the new Columbia Pike Village Center public square.

The new public square is part of a development that is replacing the current Food Star grocery store at the intersection of S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike. A developer is planning to build a five story building with market-rate apartments, retail and a major grocer.

The county-owned public square would go next to the development, where part of the Food Star parking lot is currently located. Arlington residents can take an online survey and answer questions about the type of benches, location of a water feature and how the new square should look overall.

The square is meant to be a “green oasis,” according to the county, and will have several “opportunities to sit, relax and enjoy the new square and garden.” It is also meant to work with the new retail area that is part of the development. The county’s current plans for the square show wide sidewalks that could be used for outdoor seating at restaurants.

“Success of the public square goes hand-in-hand with the success of retail,” the survey says.

The county is currently deciding between a central garden and a central open lawn. Residents are asked to choose which one they would prefer, with the option to choose a combination of both.

Preliminary sketches show seating around a central garden or lawn area, with open green spaces and paths throughout it. Residents who take the survey are asked to choose the type of benches they would like to see in the garden, as well as the kind of open spaces and paths.

The county also asks residents to rank water features, like fountains or small stone waterfalls, and weigh in on where one should be located in the square.

The new square will be somewhat similar to the public squares at Penrose Square and Pentagon Row, where there’s a combination of retail and open spaces, or the public space outside the Arlington Mill Community Center. However, the county said it is hoping that the Village Center public square offers more greenery.

“Penrose Square and Arlington Mill offer outdoor event spaces that are largely paved,” the county said. “Perhaps Village Center square could offer something different… ‘green oasis.'”

by Heather Mongilio — July 22, 2015 at 4:20 pm 3,095 0

The Food Star at Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive (photo via Google Maps)

(Updated at 5 p.m.) Columbia Pike residents are getting a first look at the development that’s proposed to replace the Food Star grocery store at the the intersection of S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike.

Officials will hold an open house to discuss the proposal for a public square that will go next to the planned six-story multi-use building from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 30, at the county’s Parks and Natural Resources Operations Building (2700 S. Taylor Street).

Under the form based code proposal, submitted by Orr Partners, the new building will have five stories of market-rate apartments, and the first floor will have retail and a grocery store. The “major grocer” filling the space has not been finalized. There will also be a public square at the intersection of S. George Mason and Columbia Pike, but the idea is still in a preliminary planning stage.

Preliminary sketches for the project, dubbed “Columbia Pike Village Center,” show retail on the plaza level and the first level with the grocery store on the plaza level. The apartment complex would have an entrance on the plaza level by the public square and an entrance on the first floor.

The massing of the planned redevelopment of the Food Star grocery store on Columbia Pike (image via CPHD)

The building is planned to have about 250 new market-rate apartments and 607 parking spaces in a three-level below-ground garage, in addition to the more than 80,000 square feet of retail.

Of the 607 parking spots, 366 will be for tenants while 245 will be for customers and visitors. There will also be 28 public parking spots on the streets and 126 bicycle rack spots.

The building plans also call for three residential courtyards, one on the first floor, an open one on the second floor and one that is open from the second floor and up. According to preliminary landscape sketches, the courtyard on the second floor could have a pool.

by Ethan Rothstein — April 27, 2015 at 5:00 pm 5,888 0

The Food Star at Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive (photo via Google Maps)(Updated Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.) The Food Star grocery store and strip mall at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive is being eyed for redevelopment.

The proposed building, from developer Orr Partners, would be six stories of mixed-use development — five stories of apartments and ground floor retail. The property would have to redevelop under the Columbia Pike Commercial Form-Based Code, which calls for mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly buildings.

Orr Partners Chairman David Orr said he expects the building to have about 350 market-rate apartments, and for a grocery store and other community-oriented retail —  maybe a fast-casual restaurant or two — to occupy the ground floor. He expects to submit a form-based code application in June.

“It’s going to be really great, we’re really excited,” Orr said. His Reston-based company has already built the FDIC headquarters in Ballston and Boeing’s former headquarters in Rosslyn. “We love Arlington, and we love doing business in Arlington.”

In addition to the retail and apartments, the developer plans to include underground parking and to build a public plaza where the large surface lot is now. The plaza, Orr said, would be roughly the same size as the ones at Arlington Mill Community Center and Penrose Square.

“We believe that public plaza has an opportunity to be a wonderful game changer for Columbia Pike because of its visibility and location,” he said. “Certainly the Penrose Square plaza was wonderfully done, but we think we can take it up another notch.”

Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization Executive Director Takis Karantonis is familiar with the plans, and he said the area — one of the major intersections on the Pike — is ripe for a project like this.

The massing of the planned redevelopment of the Food Star grocery store on Columbia Pike (image via CPHD)“This is a truly important intersection of the Pike and we are very interested in seeing that happen,” he told ARLnow.com this afternoon. “On the other side, we love the Food Star, it has been a staple on the Pike for a very long time. It serves three or four neighborhoods, and it will be a tough transition through the construction phase not to have a grocery store there.”

Karantonis said he would like to see the Food Star come back in the ground floor of the new building, or something similar: an affordable grocery store with a focus on ethnic foods.

The proposal is in its nascent stages, according to Urban Planner Matt Mattauszek with the county’s department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. So far, it is just a draft concept and Orr Partners is beginning to have meetings with the Form-Based Code Advisory Working Group. No official plans or proposals have been submitted to the county.

So far, the only clue as to what the development will look like is a rendering of the building’s general shape and size, submitted to CPHD, that shows a building with frontages along both George Mason Drive and the Pike. Orr said his company has retained KGD Architecture, which designed the Arlington Mill residences on Columbia Pike.

Photo, top, via Google Maps. Image, bottom, courtesy CPHD

by ARLnow.com — March 24, 2015 at 2:30 pm 2,611 0

(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) A car ran into and knocked over a light pole on S. George Mason Drive this afternoon.

The crash involved a single vehicle — a Ford Mustang convertible — and happened around 2:00 p.m. in front of the Army National Guard Readiness Center, near Route 50.

We’re told that the driver suffered minor injuries as a result of the wreck. She was transported via ambulance to a local hospital.

The northbound lanes of George Mason Drive are temporarily closed between 4th Street S. and Route 50. Southbound lanes of George Mason are still open.

Dominion Power crews are on scene, preparing to assist with the clean-up.

by Ethan Rothstein — February 18, 2015 at 3:45 pm 2,274 0

A driver suffering from an apparent medical emergency drove his car off the road and into a tree this afternoon in Douglas Park.

The driver was attended to by medical personnel and ultimately taken to the hospital. According to police sources, the driver lost control of his car driving northbound on S. George Mason Drive, mere feet from the intersection with Four Mile Run Drive, just before 3:00 p.m.

The road was closed briefly as fire and police personnel responded to the crash, but it has since reopened.

Airbags deployed and the windshield shattered. The car, a Dodge Avenger, is likely totaled, suffering severe front end damage. There’s no word on the severity of the driver’s injuries.

by ARLnow.com — January 29, 2015 at 1:45 pm 3,879 0

(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) George Mason Drive is shut down between N. Henderson Road and Park Drive due to a single-vehicle wreck that knocked over a utility pole.

The crash happened around 1:00 p.m. A driver in a sedan lost control of her car while heading down George Mason, near Barrett Elementary School. The car flipped on its roof and knocked over a utility pole and active power lines.

An Arlington County Fire Department rescue squad helped to pull the woman out of the overturned vehicle while keeping clear of the power lines. She was transported to a local hospital but her injuries did not appear to be life-threatening. Initial reports suggest that alcohol might have been a factor in the crash.

The road is expected to remain closed while utility crews work to repair the pole and the lines.

by ARLnow.com — September 16, 2014 at 9:00 am 1,936 0

Fighter jet lands at Reagan National for trade show (photo via Textron AirLand)

Stabbing Reported in Nauck — Three people, a man and two women, were reportedly stabbed in Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood late last night. The stabbing followed an argument among a group of people. One man was taken into custody following the incident. [WUSA9]

Pedestrian Signal Coming to George Mason Drive — The County Board is expected to approve a new HAWK pedestrian signal for S. George Mason Drive at the Army National Guard Readiness Center. The safety device will cost about $300,000, 80 percent of which will be paid by the federal government. [InsideNova]

New ‘Pop-Up’ Menu for Water & Wall — Water & Wall is launching a new “pop-up” lunch menu, featuring dishes with southern and mid-Atlantic influences and ingredients. The launch of the new menu follows the Virginia Square restaurant’s successful pop-up Chinese menu in August. [Eater D.C.]

Photo via Textron AirLand

by ARLnow.com — April 25, 2014 at 11:25 am 2,820 0

A woman crashed her car into a condominium building on S. George Mason Drive this morning.

The incident happened around 10:15 a.m. at the George Mason Village condos near the intersection of S. George Mason Drive and Four Mile Run Drive.

A 70-year-old driver apparently pressed her car’s accelerator instead of the brake in the condo’s parking lot, sending the Hyundai sedan careening over the curb and into a trench between the parking lot and the building.

The driver was pulled out of the car by police and passersby. She didn’t suffer any significant injuries but was transported to Virginia Hospital Center as a precaution.

A tow truck used its winch to get the car out of the trench. An Arlington County building inspector was called to the scene to inspect what appeared to only be minor damage to the structure.

Separately this morning, a Mercedes SUV flipped on its side on N. Williamsburg Blvd between 35th and 36th Streets. The crash was reported to be a single-vehicle accident.

Photos of Williamsburg Blvd crash courtesy James Rice

by ARLnow.com — April 15, 2014 at 9:45 am 1,040 0

Lunar eclipse (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Arlington Family Returns to Boston Marathon — The Walls family of Arlington will be returning to Boston this week to finish the marathon they didn’t get to complete last year because of the April 15 bombings. John Walls was in the grandstands on Boylston Street, waiting for wife Cindy and daughter Katie to cross the finish line, when the first bomb exploded across the street. John captured video of the ensuing chaos on his smartphone. Cindy and Katie were among the thousands of runners who did not get a chance to finish the race. They’re running again this year. [WTOP]

Dozens of Arlingtonians to Compete in Marathon — A record 112 runners from Arlington are signed up to run the 2014 Boston Marathon on Monday, April 21. The race is the world’s oldest annual marathon and widely considered the world’s most prestigious. [InsideNoVa]

HOT Lanes Proposed for 14th Street Bridge — The District of Columbia is considering a proposal to install High Occupancy Toll lanes on the 14th Street Bridge, the Southeast/Southwest Freeway, and I-295. Arlington County successfully blocked a HOT lanes proposal on the Alexandria and Arlington portion of I-395. [NBC Washington]

Kenmore Teacher Named ‘Teacher of the Year’ — Kenmore Middle School technology teacher Cassidy Nolen has been named Arlington’s 2014 teacher of the year. Glebe Elementary School principal Jamie Borg, meanwhile, was named principal of the year. [InsideNoVa]

‘Business of Weddings’ Forum at GMU — Weddings are big business, and a free forum tomorrow at George Mason University’s Arlington campus (3351 Fairfax Drive) will explore the economic impact of getting hitched. Attendees are asked to RSVP for the event, which is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Wednesday. [Eventbrite]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

by ARLnow.com — December 2, 2013 at 2:45 pm 1,947 0

Two passengers of a Red Top taxi cab were injured in a three-vehicle collision today.

The crash happened around noon in the southbound lanes of George Mason Drive, in front of the Army National Guard Readiness Center. Initial reports suggest an Arlington County work truck and the Red Top Cab sedan were stopped in the right-hand lane when the cab was rear-ended by an Advanced Towing truck. The cab was sandwiched between the other two vehicles, causing front- and rear-end damage.

An Arlington couple in their 60s were in the backseat of the cab at the time of the crash, according to Tanvir Ahmed, their son. Ahmed said his mother, who was returning home from cancer treatment at Virginia Hospital Center, suffered a head injury and was bleeding when she was taken via ambulance back to the hospital. His father suffered minor injuries, he said.

All three drivers remained on scene following the wreck. Only minor damage was visible on the rear bumper of the county truck. The tow truck had moderate front-end damage.

So far, there’s no official word from police regarding the cause of the crash. No other injuries were reported.

by Katie Pyzyk — November 7, 2013 at 11:00 am 1,805 0

Lacey Lane subdivision site(Updated at 5:05 p.m. on 11/12/13) Nearly 10 months ago, workers excavated land at the corner of Washington Blvd and N. George Mason Drive to make way for a new subdivision called Lacey Lane. Shortly after the land was readied, however, the project stalled out and currently appears to be little more than a vacant lot.

In February, brothers Taylor and Milton Chamberlin of The Barrett Companies said they expected work to begin on the first model home at the site in March, with work on the second beginning shortly thereafter. They anticipated the two models would take about seven months each to build and would be ready by autumn. So far, no housing construction is visible at the site.

The land is divided into nine properties. Each plot will have a house with a base price of $1.4 million.

Calls and emails to Milton Chamberlin over the past few weeks were not returned. But Arlington County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development (CPHD) explained where things stand from the county’s point of view.

According to CPHD, there has not been any trouble with The Barrett Companies, the delay revolves around fulfilling safety regulations in order to get a building permit. County staff found outstanding “life safety regulations” that the developer needs to fulfill before a building permit can be granted. Once the developer makes some clarifications and revisions to the permit documents, the permit can be approved.

“To say it plainly, life safety is really about making sure the buildings are safe for people to occupy,” said CPHD spokeswoman Helen Duong. “For this project, the outstanding items on this permit have more to do with the documentation of the design than concerns about the adequacy of the design itself.”

Basically, it appears the designer believed certain safety features were implied in the building plans, but they need to be explicitly included. Revisions must continue until county staff can see all the necessary safety features drawn in.

According to the CPHD permit records, The Barrett Companies first applied for a Lacey Lane building permit in January, but the plans were sent back for revision in February. This process was repeated a few times in the following months, and CPHD’s Inspection Services last rejected a version of the plan in April. No further revisions have been submitted since then.

Permit applications stay active for six months but expire if no action has been taken after that time. The current permit application for Lacey Lane has an expiration date of March 15, 2014. That date can move back another six months, however, if further actions occur, such as submitting another round of revisions.

Once CPHD Inspection Services staff approves the plan’s revisions, the developer must also get the permit approved by the Department of Environmental Services. We’re told that process typically takes place in just a few minutes.

by Ethan Rothstein — November 6, 2013 at 1:00 pm 1,759 0

Two cars collided in front of Virginia Hospital Center this morning, and two people involved in the crash were taken inside with injuries.

Just before 11:30 a.m., the two black sedans crashed at the intersection of N. George Mason Drive and 17th Street. According to police on the scene, a black Lincoln collided with a Mitsubishi Lancer as it was trying to turn left out of the hospital.

The Lincoln’s driver was uninjured, while the driver of the Mitsubishi and a passenger in the Lancer were suffering from non-life-threatening injuries.

One lane of northbound George Mason Drive was closed while police investigated the accident and waited for the tow trucks to remove the cars.

by Katie Pyzyk — February 20, 2013 at 1:50 pm 4,421 186 Comments

Lacey Lane subdivision plan

The developer behind the upcoming Lacey Lane subdivision in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood is giving peek at what the new area will look like once it’s developed.

The Barrett Companies, which is a business run by the Chamberlin family since the 1980s, bought the vacant property on the corner of Washington Blvd and N. George Mason Drive and had it excavated last month. The Chamberlins had been working to acquire the land for about a decade.

According to brothers Taylor and Milton Chamberlin, the goal for the Georgian style homes is for them to be an alternative to “McMansions.”

“We really take our time to design the homes to fit in the neighborhood. We’re not builders that come in and put this huge McMansion in a small neighborhood where it doesn’t fit. That’s not what we do,” said Taylor. “All of this is really thought through and it’s really livable, usable space. It’s not those McMansions where you walk in and wonder, ‘What do you do in this room?'”

The base model runs around $1.4 million and features four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms, with the possibility of another bedroom and bathroom on an additional level. Costs will vary based on the different lot sizes and individual add-ons the purchasers want in their homes.

“We’re pretty enthusiastic about what we’re giving back to the community and what we’re providing for people who want to live there,” Taylor said. “They’re neat homes, they’re going to be well built.”

Another goal is to foster a 1950s sense of community among the owners of the nine properties, in which everybody knows and interacts with their neighbors. The homes will only be accessible via a private road and there will be a small fence around the subdivision.

“There’s a sense of community where people can interact a little bit more, but not lose their privacy,” said Milton.

The homes feature outdoor living area options — such as screened in “sleeping porches” off the second floor bedrooms or fireplaces exposed to the outdoors — which are supposed to add to the sense of community.

“While one neighbor is out grilling, you can see a couple of other neighbors hanging out on their patios,” Milton said. “You can sit and hang out and watch the kids in the backyard. It’s a very functional space.”

Excavation at Washington Blvd and N. George Mason DriveThe brothers noted The Barrett Companies’ effort toward green building and energy efficiency. From better insulation and caulking to installing appropriate outlets in the detached garages for plugging in an electric car, the Chamberlins believe small touches make their properties stand out.

“It’s the little things that are very time consuming that a lot of builders wouldn’t want to do,” Taylor said. “All those little things add up. It makes it so much more efficient.”

A few neighbors had voiced concerns about last month’s removal of around 150 trees on the property to make way for the subdivision. But Taylor said the trees that were removed weren’t of high quality; many of them will be replaced with new trees that are native to Virginia.

“The trees that were on this site were very low quality trees per Arlington County’s grading scale. A lot had just grown wild over the years,” said Taylor. “In the process of coming back in here, we’re putting in a lot of newer, higher quality trees to grow up around the homes. I do understand the concern of neighbors around it. They’re going to see that it will be beautiful and lush and green again.”


by Katie Pyzyk — January 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm 2,667 32 Comments

Excavation at Washington Blvd and N. George Mason Drive(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) An excavating crew has begun clearing land in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood where a new subdivision will be built. The space at the northeast corner of Washington Blvd and N. George Mason Drive is private property and was one of the few remaining undeveloped pieces of land in the county.

The Department of Environmental Services recently reviewed and approved dividing the property into nine residential lots. This was done as a matter of right, which means the County Board does not have to give approval if the applicant meets all requirements.

During the preliminary review and approval of the subdivision proposal, the applicant, Lacey Lane Land Company, L.C., had to send notification to all adjacent property owners as well as those across the street. The president of the neighborhood’s civic association also had to be notified, along with the neighborhood conservation representative. The notification was to inform neighbors of a possible new development in their area, and to give them a chance to speak with county staff about the proposal.

The developer had to submit design plans for the site to ensure all the development’s infrastructure would be adequately designed and built. As with any public infrastructure to be built and be turned over to the county for operation and maintenance, this one had to be guaranteed by a public improvement performance bond and agreement. The applicant also had to meet requirements in the Zoning Ordinance regarding landscaping regulations and tree removal.

Arlington County Urban Forester Vincent Verweij says the developer was sent a letter suggesting preservation for many of the 150 trees on the land. However, Verweij noted it was only a suggestion because private land owners can cut down whichever trees they choose on their own property once receiving the initial land disturbance permit for the site. He believes the excavators left about five trees on the property.

Verweij believes the remaining trees are too exposed and may be unstable in storms or on windy days.

“I fear they may fall into houses now, because a forest is much stronger than individual trees,” said Verweij. “Most of the support and strength comes from being rooted outward and that’s going to be cut significantly by these houses.”

Under the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, the developer must preserve, or in this case re-plant, 20 percent of the trees that stood on the site. The county will not award certificates of occupancy for the homes until those standards are met.

Lacey Lane Land Company, L.C. recently applied for a construction permit for one of the homes, which will be built at 1312 N. Evergreen Street. That permit could be approved in about 30 days. The developer will have to apply for individual permits for every additional home and each will have to be reviewed by the county. Currently, there is no estimate on when the subdivision will be completed; it will depend on the developer’s timing for submitting the additional eight permits and beginning construction those houses.


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